Jaco Booyens Architect and SAOTA win gold for architectural restoration in South Africa

The Buffelsdrift Farm in Klein Karoo, SA, won gold at the International Domus Restoration and Conservation Award for restoring the heritage buildings using traditional techniques.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : Jul 14, 2020

The architectural restoration of the ensemble of heritage buildings on Buffelsdrift Farm, designed and conserved by Jaco Booyens Architect and SAOTA, recently won the gold medal at the International Domus Restoration and Conservation Award in Italy. The seventh edition of the award was conceived and promoted by the company Fassa S.r.l. and by the University of Ferrara, and was announced online through a live streaming event on July 2, 2020. 

The Buffelsdrift Farm, located west of Ladismith in the arid Klein Karoo region of the Western Cape in South Africa, was reinstated to its almost original form and structure with the use of traditional materials and techniques.

“To honour the heritage of the existing buildings, materials were carefully selected to ensure that a little of the construction history is visible, showcasing elements of how these buildings were originally put together,” says Jaco Booyens, principal architect at South African firm Jaco Booyens Architect. 

Cluster of buildings at the Buffelsdrift Farm in South Africa restored by Jaco Booyens Architect and SAOTA | Buffelsdrift Farm by Jaco Booyens Architect and SAOTA | STIRworld
Cluster of buildings at the Buffelsdrift Farm in South Africa restored by Jaco Booyens Architect and SAOTA Image Credit: Courtesy of SAOTA

The restoration process involved the regeneration of a cluster of Cape buildings in a valley beneath the Swartberg mountain range, consisting of a main house and two barns, and a store. Another flat-roofed building, typical of the Ladismith style, originally used as a wine store was also conserved. Other structures on the property include a contemporary shed, a cottage up a hill and a graveyard.

The Buffelsdrift Farm represents a building characteristic of South African culture, that is known to have been born by the mixture of different cultures and building techniques. It consists of multiple buildings dating back to the mid-19th century inserted within a large agricultural property, again arranged and replanted.

The original buildings were made of raw earth and revived using the traditional techniques | Buffelsdrift Farm by Jaco Booyens Architect and SAOTA | STIRworld
The original buildings were made of raw earth and revived using the traditional techniques Image Credit: Courtesy of SAOTA

SAOTA director Greg Truen notes that while minor additions and modern alterations had been made to the buildings, the original house was “in good condition” and that the barns were “fundamentally untouched”. “We looked for contemporary materials that spoke to the original materials,” adds Truen.

The buildings resemble Ladismith style that was prominent in the South African region | Buffelsdrift Farm by Jaco Booyens Architect and SAOTA | STIRworld
The buildings resemble Ladismith style that was prominent in the South African region Image Credit: Courtesy of SAOTA

The original buildings, made of raw earth, had undergone numerous alterations both in coatings and in covers due to inconsistent additions. The restoration tended to overcome these inconsistencies, returning however, to the use of traditional construction techniques. The walls were reinstated with raw earth wherever required and re-plastered using local techniques. A big one roof pitch covered with sheet metal, created in more recent times, was reconfigured according to the original straw technique, made with local plant materials. The final result was particularly convincing in the redefinition of the volumes set within a natural landscape that became an integral part of the design.

  • The roofs were restored to the original using straw technique | Buffelsdrift Farm by Jaco Booyens Architect and SAOTA | STIRworld
    The roofs were restored to the original using straw technique Image Credit: Courtesy of SAOTA
  • The surrounding landscape embraces the building beautifully | Buffelsdrift Farm by Jaco Booyens Architect and SAOTA | STIRworld
    The surrounding landscape embraces the building beautifully Image Credit: Courtesy of SAOTA

With more than 73 contributions from European and other countries such as China, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, USA, and Russia, this award recognises “excellence in the field of restoration, redevelopment, architectural and landscape recovery at an international level”. The jury also awarded another gold medal to Giorgio Forti and Ilaria Forti for the Restoration of the Façade of the Church of Santa Maria Di Nazareth (Vulgo Degli Scalzi).

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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